Providing trusted legal counsel for credit unions, banks, businesses and individuals in the Tri-state area since 1989.

What is at-will employment?

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2021 | Employment Law for Employees |

Like most people in New York, you likely always felt fairly secure in your employment. That is why the news of your termination comes as such a shock. You probably assume that you have to give your employer a reason to fire you (making any perceived unwarranted termination unlawful). Yet is that actually the case?

You may have heard of the concept of at-will employment in the past yet never truly taken the time to comprehend its meaning. However, many jobs (some might even argue a majority) fall into this category, making an understanding of its meaning almost essential.

The definition of at-will employment

The definition of “at-will employment” is an employment agreement that can end at any time at the will of either party involved. New York is an at-will employment state (as are most states in the country), meaning that your employer can terminate your job without needing to have a reason to do so. You might think that this philosophy’s benefits slant heavily toward employers, yet in reality, it works both ways. While your employer can end your employment at any time at its will, so too can you decide to end your time with a company whenever you choose (whether that be to progress in your career or to retire).

New York’s exceptions to at-will employment

Lawmakers do recognize the need to limit the authority granted through the at-will employment philosophy (particularly for employers). Thus, certain exceptions to the application of this philosophy exist. Per the New York State Department of Labor, these exceptions include cases specifically involving:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religious beliefs

Additionally, your employer cannot cite your participation in a union or political or personal activities performed outside of the state as a reason for firing you, nor can it fire you for reporting it’s unlawful or unethical actions.